Friday, February 15, 2013

The Role of Faith in Life and Love

I'm feeling excited today, the day after Valentine's Day. I took the day "off" yesterday, resting my legs as I've been on my bicycle for most days over the last month, and I needed the rest...but my mind and heart were still "busy".

During the course of my consideration of "Love as Effort", I shared the basic ideas with my friend, Ben Ralston. With regards to being willing to make the effort involved with "self-love", to be willing to do the "work" of self-understanding, etc., he responded as follows:

"I think there's a conundrum/paradox there, too. In order to make the effort towards working through our 'stuff' (so that we can be love and experience the peace you mention) there must be a certain amount of self-love, right? So what comes first, chicken or egg?"

Yesterday, I think I got the best "answer" I've had so far, and, again it is going to challenge some widely held beliefs.

First of all, even I have been tuned-in to and aware of the idea that "Love is the opposite of fear." Ben's video a while back about "How to Be Love" really spoke to that in me, as that is how I have been oriented in my own life for a long time now. However, other personal experiences at the time were beginning to challenge this idea, and those challenges eventually brought me to the conclusion that "Love" actually feels like Effort (the subject of the blog linked above). Nevertheless, I had to take seriously his question, "Which comes first?"

As I have continued to feel into and think about this, I have come to the following intuition/feeling/theory: Faith is what is necessary before we are willing to expend the Effort of Love. Faith may be naive or it may be rational, with the latter being the more mature and conscious of the two. Rational Faith takes Evidence into consideration, objective data, which is not always easy to obtain, especially where "projections" (of shadow, anima, and/or animus) are concerned.

Recall from this blog for instance:

"The anima not only interferes with a man's emotional reactions, she can interfere with his thinking as well.  For instance, when a man is anima-possessed he may begin to give forth opinions instead of genuine thinking.  It is as though the anima begins to talk right through him, and she expresses herself as though she had an animus, which means she expresses opinions without regard to facts, relationship, or logic.  When a man is in this state of mind he begins to argue in a peevish way, and his masculine objectivity is quite lost in a sea of emotionally toned and irrational opinions that prove resistant to reasonable discussion...

In summary, Sanford offers: "...[T]he anima can poison a man's consciousness and rob him of himself should he fall for her insinuations...a man can prevent the negative anima from having this destructive influence on making her conscious." (Invisible Partners...Pp. 35-43).

However, once one becomes more "self-aware" by integrating shadow, anima and/or animus, one can also be more Objective in one's observations, and therefore more capable of Rational Faith - which can be an amazingly strong foundation for the Will to Love, the Desire to Expend energy on behalf of oneself, others, and the benefit of the World.

As Erich Fromm writes in The Art of Loving:

"The ability to love depends on one's capacity to emerge from narcissism, and from the incestuous fixation to mother and clan; it depends on our capacity to grow, to develop a productive orientation in our relationship toward the world and ourselves. This process of emergence, of birth, of waking up, requires one quality as a necessary condition: faith. The practice of the art of loving requires the practice of faith.

"What is faith? Is faith necessarily a matter of belief in God, or in religious doctrine? Is faith by necessity in contrast to, or divorced from, reason and rational thinking? Even to begin to understand the problem of faith one must differentiate between rational and irrational faith. By irrational faith I understand the belief (in a person or an idea) which is based on one's submission to irrational authority. In contrast, rational faith is conviction which is rooted in one's own experience of thought or feeling. Rational faith is not primarily belief in something, but the quality of certainty and firmness which our convictions have. Faith is a character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than a specific belief.

"Rational faith is rooted in productive intellectual and emotional activity. In rational thinking, in which faith is supposed to have no place, rational faith is an important component. How does the scientist, for instance, arrive at a new discovery? Does he start with making experiment after experiment, gathering fact after fact, without having a vision of what he expects to find?....

"....At every step from the conception of a rational vision to the formulation of a theory, faith is necessary: faith in the vision as a rationally valid aim to pursue, faith in the hypothesis as a likely and plausible proposition, and faith in the final theory, at least until a general consensus about its validity has been reached. This faith is rooted in one's own experience, in the confidence in one's power of thought, observation, and judgment. While irrational faith is the acceptance of something as true only because an authority [and don't forget parents in this category] or the majority say so, rational faith is rooted in an independent conviction based upon one's own productive observing and thinking, in spite of the majority's opinion.

"Thought and judgment are not the only realm of experience in which rational faith is manifested. In the sphere of human relations, faith is an indispensable quality of any significant friendship or love. 'Having faith' in another person means to be certain of the reliability and unchangeability of his fundamental attitudes, of the core of his personality, of his love. By this I do not mean that a person may not change his opinions, but that his basic motivations remain the same; that, for instance, his respect for life and human dignity is part of himself, not subject to change.

"In the same sense we have faith in ourselves. We are aware of the existence of a self, of a core in our personality which is unchangeable and which persists throughout our life in spite of varying circumstances, and regardless of certain changes in opinions and feelings. It is this core which is the reality behind the word 'I', and on which our conviction of our own identity is based. Unless we have faith in the persistence of our self, our feeling of identity is threatened and we become dependent on other people whose approval then becomes the basis for our feeling of identity. Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today, and therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to. Faith in oneself is a condition of our ability to promise, and since, as Nietzsche said, man can be defined by his capacity to promise, faith is one of the conditions of human existence. What matters in relation to love is the faith in one's own love; in its ability to produce love in others, and in its reliability." (Pp.112-114)

As, I have pointed out in the last blog, where "Love = Effort", one must have faith in one's capacity to exert effort in relationship to what one intends, what one "promises", and one must be pretty self-aware to know one's capacities and limitations, so as not to promise something one cannot give. At the same time, becoming self-aware often involves pushing oneself beyond one's limits in order to have a better sense of what those limits actually are. As an example, I know my plans for my bike trip have taken many twists and turns in the details, but I was able to stick to the "major objective" and reaching that objective (by completing my bike trip this summer) is still my "intention" and therefore, my "promise" to myself and others. I still have "faith" in myself and "faith" in the support of others as they have been supporting me from the beginning, and therefore, I am continuing to "make the effort" to reach that final goal.

I would also offer, however, that faith does play a major role in our willingness to persist in a relationship. Everyone comes into their relationships with a certain "vision" of how that relationship might evolve, what is potential in that relationship, and our expectations may be more or less appropriate. As I have pointed out in several previous blogs here, especially those concerning our expectations surrounding "romantic love" (here and here), so many of our expectations are in-appropriate, and un-reasonable. When our partners are unable to live up to those unreasonable expectations, when we become disappointed, then we "lose faith". We may "lose faith" in that particular partner, that particular relationship, and move on with "faith" in some future possibility, without ever re-evaluating our expectations. Or, we may, eventually "lose faith" altogether, and give up on ever finding satisfaction in an intimate relationship.

However, if we are wise, if we continue to have faith in ourselves and others, we may "make the effort" with each life experience to come to a better understanding of ourselves and of others. I am hoping with my writing here to help with that understanding because with better understanding Faith Can Be Renewed and with Renewed Faith we can be more motivated to Love - to continue to Make the Effort to learn and to grow in our relationships with ourselves and with others.

And that leads to another "equation" of sorts: Understanding --> (leads to) Rational Faith which --> The Will to Love (and Learn) which --> More Understanding which --> More Rational Faith which --> An Even Greater Will to Love, etc., etc.

For instance, I heard a broadcast of an interview with Alison Armstrong on Lisa Garr's "Aware Radio Show" the other day. I am still "processing", but I think I came away from that with just a little more understanding of men and women.

I am going to keep working on this consideration of the differences between men and women, as well as what is necessary to understand and to practice in order to have healthy, functional, satisfying interpersonal relationships. I guess you could say this has been a "core" focus of my life! Furthermore, because I have developed some Rational Faith in my ability to understand, and even to add, from my own "core", insights that have helped me and may also help others develop greater self- and other understanding, I am going to continue to make the effort to further my understanding, to put into practice what I learn, and to communicate to others.

And you can count on that!

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